Immediately after the unexpected announcement of Disciples: Liberation by the duo Frima Studio and Kalypso Media, the caring audience was divided into those who were waiting for something fresh, and into veterans who suspected the developers of profaning (another) ideas of the cult Disciples II . To assess the situation, we played the closed beta, asked a couple of questions to the developers, listened to their presentation, and now we want to share our impressions.
Ready for new things, but not for mistakes
Let me remind you that the cult series Disciples , the first part of which was released in 1999, and the second – three years later, differed from the “Heroes of Might and Magic” with a dense Gothic atmosphere, a unique combat system, intelligent AI, constantly kept in suspense, and attachment to heroes … Disciples III, released in 2009 , rejected or spoiled a lot of this, turning more into an RPG, moreover, quite easy and tedious – even two major additions did not help.
This is what Disciples II looked like.
I’m just a fan of the second part, but I was not going to include a grumpy veteran – I’m quite ready for everything new and perfectly understand the motives of the developers. They themselves told me about it the classic things in such cases: you need to follow the progress, they don’t make games anymore, and they want to release a project that is available to both the new audience and the old one. In addition, it should be borne in mind that Disciples: Liberation will be released on consoles. And in general, they say, this is not a remake of the second part, but almost a spin-off, a new game in the same universe, which does not have the number IV in the title.
We focus on story, characters, choices and role-playing elements, and all of this together creates a new game in the Disciples universe .
Everything seems to be logical, but why, after getting acquainted with the closed beta version, I still have the feeling that this is the same Disciples III with a number of new ideas and the repetition of some mistakes?
And this is the third part.
The first thing that catches your eye is a brighter and more colorful picture, more suitable for “Heroes” and King’s Bounty than for the gothic Disciples . But in fact, we are talking about a more diverse video sequence, and not about the fact that the Gothic was sent to junk.
A word to the authors:
We wanted to diversify the experience while exploring the open world, offering more visual variety as you travel around Nevendaar. Gothic is actually present all over the country, and some regions will fit much better with past parts. A darker, harsher environment filled with death and decay is one of the artistic elements of Disciples: Liberation . We also thought about readability and accessibility. For example, the factions were clearly colored to avoid confusion – this makes the game a little more colorful than the original, but more convenient for a new audience. But rest assured: Liberation’s history is darker than anything that came before.
I’m not sure about “darker”, but, for example, the lands of the Cursed Legions and the possession of the Undead Hordes do match the setting. And for the design of the main character’s armor and for painting tattoos on the body of one of her companions, I want to immediately put a bold like.
Why not Gothic?
Heroine on heroin
By the way, about the heroine and her companions and companions. Here I would also not be in a hurry with unambiguous criticism. Yes, now we have a pre-registered protagonist (more precisely, the protagonist) named Avianna, who initially does not belong to any faction (there is a feeling that she is a Nephilim). And on her adventures, she is accompanied by key allies with whom she can communicate and complete their personal quests. There are nine companions in total.
The girl in the lead role, the ability to romance with guys, even with other girls, or act as a matchmaker (there is a lot of sex in general) – yes, it looks very fashionable, youthful and relevant. But this does not mean that along with the choice of the main character, the variety of factions will disappear.
In Liberation, everything is good with sound – so, fighters in fights juicy commentary on their actions.
Allies belong just to different factions, and during the adventure we will visit the lands of the Legion of the Damned, the Empire, the Elven clans and the Hordes of the undead – they are all really different and atmospheric, corresponding to the setting. For example, in the burning lands of the Legion of the Damned, a festive orgy is going on with might and main, where demons collect blood flowing from battle pits and ask us to find escaped zombies in order to cook our favorite dishes from them.
Finally, in Illyan, the city that is designed to unite and save Nevendaar, Avianna can recruit soldiers and erect buildings for all four factions for this – the main thing is to get the desired blueprint according to the plot or side quest. Space for buildings is limited, therefore, if you wish, you are free to temporarily freeze one building, and erect another in its place. That is, we ourselves determine the racial composition of our army. Yes, it reminds of King’s Bounty , but I don’t see anything wrong with that.
This is what Illyan looks like.
Where is without a moral choice?
The plot, quests, partners – everything is also normal and modern here. Spoilers cannot be thrown, but the main thing you have already understood is that Avianna and her comrades must unite and save Nevendaar, and for this, first of all, she is trying to conclude alliances with factions. There are a lot of plot and side quests, many look interesting, and they can be solved in different ways.
Support the Empire or the rebels, kill the white dragon or, conversely, the half-insane paladin who set us on her, return the already mentioned zombies to the kitchen to the demonic cook, or inspire them to deal with him? Who is right: an elf who shot an arrow into the throat of a boy who entered the forbidden forest, or his roaring father, eager for revenge?
But here there is no choice – to kill!
Some decisions have delayed consequences, others are local, but almost all are reflected in the reputation of the factions. And you need to improve it in order to pump racial buildings and hire cooler fighters. Avianna herself also plays different roles – you can be vicious and brutal, domineering, diplomatic, and so on. In dialogues, they are allowed to lie and offer bribes – once what I lied, backfired on me after a couple of quests. Since the factions have very different interests and values, it does not work out to be pretty for everyone: if they supported their father in the situation described above, the Empire will say thanks, but the elves’ reputation will fall.
Our decisions may even lead to the fact that some partners leave the party. “Your actions will determine the end of the game. In total, we have five endings planned , “the developers told me.
Up-to-date screenshots from the “beta” are not allowed to be published yet, but the game is really beautiful.
It seems the same, but not that
In general, the gameplay is familiar, but with caveats. We move the main character around the map, capture sawmills, mines with iron, gold mines and sources of other resources – they are needed both for the construction and improvement of buildings that produce fighters, the market (where we buy resources, equipment and mercenaries), and for pumping equipment, and also for combining shards, giving passive bonuses to those who wear them.
There are also fountains that restore health and sources of mana on the map. Sometimes there are obstacles that only certain partners can destroy. And in order to unlock this ability of theirs, you must first complete their tasks. And, of course, here and there characters are standing with a desire to give us a quest or in the face.
There are still not enough interesting interactive objects on the map.
But we are already moving in real time, and although the battles are still turn-based, they bear little resemblance to what happened in the second part. They resemble a mixture of ideas from Disciples III , King’s Bounty and their own developments. Our and enemy fighters, including the heroine and her companions, move around the hexes and take turns, come to the flank to deal more damage, and can stand on cells that give bonuses. Although there are those who, on the contrary, make it worse if you walk through them. Plus there are obstacles.
The authors have implemented a seemingly original and interesting idea: three types of action points are used in battle – blue, red and yellow. Blue is needed for movement, red for attack or healing, and yellow for both. Someone has one blue and one red, another has two yellows, and the third has red and blue. All this, in theory, needs to be taken into account – as well as the fact that unused APs restore part of the health.
In addition, some warriors are allowed to remain in reserve – they do not directly participate in the fight, but use their “rear skills” to increase, for example, the physical strength of all allies or impose “confusion” on enemies. Finally, there is the original graveyard system. Units that have fallen in battle are sent there, but they can still be returned using the resurrection spell – if this is not done, then after the battle they will finally go to the All-Father. In addition, the effectiveness of some spells in battle (especially necromantic and related to summoning) depends on the number of fighters in the graveyard.
The number of soldiers in the army is determined by Avianna’s leadership points, and those increase with a set of levels.
But the role-playing system resembles that of the third part. Avianna has three branches of skills (“Combat”, “Magic” and “Nephilim”, which is responsible for supporting the army), but there are meager additions like “+ 2% to divine resistance” or “+ 4% to the health of imperial soldiers.” Upon reaching a certain plot milestone, they are allowed to choose an advanced class for the heroine (sorceress, commander, witch and others), which will change the skill tree, but the principle of a meager increase will not go anywhere. Therefore, it seemed to me the most reasonable to pump magic, opening up access to more advanced spells of different schools. We study the “spells” themselves in the castle, in the city. There we also communicate with partners, raise their level, collect resources and redistribute abilities.
Only Avianna is allowed to use the enchantment.
The unbearable lightness of the scuffle
This whole gameplay scheme has its pros and cons, but overall it would be interesting to play. If not for a few but – at least judging by the beta. If Disciples III were criticized for the weak enemy AI, then in the “beta” Liberationfor 17 hours of passage, I did not see the AI at all. That is, the enemy heroes did not attack me and did not capture my mines and mines. And I also could not leave my soldiers there for protection. As the authors explained, the “trick” when the enemy is able to take away our sources of resources, they decided to remove after the “alpha” – they say, it was considered an annoying factor due to the constant return to mines and mines. Doubtful, in my opinion, decision. But judging by what the developers told me about the “stake on the story, characters, choice and RPG elements”, it is quite understandable – the word “strategy” is not in this list.
In battles, I did not receive a special challenge either. Firstly, because I am an experienced (and humble) veteran of these games. Secondly, even among the units of the first stage (Tier 1) there are obvious “imbs”, which, for example, use skills that inflict damage on a bunch of enemies and at the same time restore health to a bunch of allies. Thirdly, because Avianna has very strong allies – they are allowed to take only two companions with them into a fight, but this is enough to scatter enemy armies left and right.
Here they talk about the game in Russian.
As a result, in 17 hours I met at least some kind of resistance literally a couple of times and never saw the “gamemover”. I destroyed the much stronger by definition white dragon Enk and took to the bone 10 fighters from the undead Hordes, who were three levels stronger than my arharovites, while losing only a couple of fighters and immediately replaced them with new ones.
Bosses somehow make you tense.
“Players will see new tactical opportunities constantly open up before them that make battles fresh and exciting,” the developers told me. But in the press release, almost all the fights took place according to approximately the same scenario. Only once did the conditions change, and I was forced to fight off the enemy waves that surrounded Avianna. The rest of the time – the usual “Kill them all”, “Kill the main byaka”, “Hold out for three moves.”
Once it was necessary to recruit more archers against the elves – and so almost all the time I had about the same army. Well, why then rack your brains over the development of buildings for the recruitment of more advanced warriors of the second and third stages?
The dragon is actually speaking.
At the same time, the fighters have a lot of health, and it took a long time to grind it down, so almost all the fights turned into a long and dull event with a predetermined end – approximately like in the third part. Well, at least for the release or soon after, the authors plan to add an automatic victory function for battles that the player will probably win and which are not part of the narrative (random encounters, garrisons).
Of course, I did not go through everything – and perhaps there will be a more serious challenge next. But if this is not the case in 17 hours, then what kind of Disciples are they?
Here everything looks very gothic.
The developers told me that they are fans of the franchise and were especially inspired by the fact that the first and second parts came from their native Canada. However, if we proceed from the “beta”, in Disciples: Liberation from this very franchise remained mainly the name and setting. But I am in no hurry to give up on the game. Reformatting an RPG like King’s Bounty can be understood and forgiven by viewing the game as an experiment within a franchise rather than a numbered sequel. But to make it fun to play, the full game needs to add tension, challenge and balance.